At Leapfrog we believe that the body is brilliant and will function optimally if we give it the micronutrients that it needs, together with sleep, exercise and minimal stress. We’ve long known plants have the power to help and heal, so Leapfrog has teamed up with medical herbalist Susan Janikowski to deep dive into plant properties and their benefits.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) also known as Golden Root, Rose Root or Arctic Root, is native to arctic and subarctic areas of the northern hemisphere. It has a long history of traditional use in Scandinavia, Russia, Tibet and parts of China to help withstand the stress of living in extreme, harsh environmental conditions including cold winters, high altitudes and low light levels.
It belongs to a class of medicinal plants known as adaptogens that increase the body’s general resistance and ability to adapt to stressors (physical, chemical and biological) in a non-specific way. These were first named and researched by the Soviets during the Cold War to increase endurance, performance and productivity of their workforce, astronauts and athletes.
In recent years, more scientific studies are backing up some of Rhodiola’s traditional uses. As a result, it has now become one of the most popular herbal supplements to help cope with the stresses of modern-day living. The following are 10 ways that Rhodiola can benefit you:
1. Resistance To Stress
As an adaptogen, it helps the body withstand stressors and protect against the negative effects of stress. Rhodiola directly affects the feedback between the brain and the adrenal gland (the HPA axis) balancing cortisol levels and also preventing adrenal fatigue.
2. Immune Support
Rhodiola is an immune modulator affecting both specific and non-specific immunity. It also supports thymus gland and T-cell production. By balancing adrenal function and cortisol levels Rhodiola can influence immunity. Cortisol is an important anti-inflammatory in the immune response, so low levels and an exhausted adrenal gland can lead to chronic infections while excess levels can cause a suppression of the immune response.
3. Anti-Depressant/Mood Enhancing
Rhodiola is well known for its mood-enhancing and anti-depressant properties. These are in part due to its ability to modulate neurotransmitters, including increasing brain serotonin production. Clinically it is used in cases of mild to moderate depression. For Seasonal Affective Disorder it can help improve mood and how we adapt to low light levels in winter, which can be a huge issue in its native habitat.
4. Cognitive Function Support
Rhodiola enhances brain function due to its adaptogenic properties and ability to modify neurotransmitter activity. Studies have shown it improves memory, concentration and mental performance, particularly under stress. It is particularly beneficial for intense periods of work or study. In Tibet, Rhodiola species have been used to support meditation practice by improving mental focus.
5. Improves Energy
Traditionally Rhodiola was used as a remedy to improve energy levels and reduce fatigue. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is used as a Qi tonic, which increases energy production and improves vitality. Research has also demonstrated significant anti-fatigue effects.
6. Supports High-Intensity Physical Exercise/Physical Exertion
More recent human studies have shown the potential of Rhodiola to improve physical endurance and resistance to high-intensity exercise and physical exertion by enhancing oxygen utilisation and as well as decreasing recovery time after exercise.
Traditionally, Rhodiola was used as a rejuvenating tonic. Its anti-ageing benefits are partly due to its ability to combat the negative effects of stress on the body and improving mental capacity and also its potent antioxidant properties.
Rhodiola has been shown to have cardioprotective effects on the heart muscle, reducing cardiac tissue damage induced by biological and chemical stressors.
9. Sexual Function and Fertility
Rhodiola has long had a reputation in improving libido in both men and women. In Siberia, it is still given to newlywed couples for fertility and to assure healthy, strong children. One study showed Rhodiola to significantly enhance erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
It is used to help recovery from chronic fatigue, nervous exhaustion, recurrent infections, chronic illness and surgery.
Tablet/Capsules: 200mg-600mg daily. It is usually standardised to contain a guaranteed percentage of the main active ingredients: 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside. Start with the lowest dose and build up.
Tincture: 1- 5ml (1:3 concentration) 3 x daily in water.
Powder: Our friends at Neal’s Yard have a Rhodiola Powder. Add half to one teaspoon of powder daily to hot chocolate, milk drinks, smoothies, desserts or superfood “buzz” balls.
A Word of Caution:
• It can worsen bipolar disorder
• If taking anti-depressant medication do work with a medical herbalist or qualified practitioner.
• It can be overstimulating for some people.
• Increased demand has resulted in over-harvesting of wild populations of Rhodiola species which are now endangered. Always choose products taken from cultivated plants – some commercial products have little biological effect, so source the best products.